Sunday, January 18, 2009

Manuscripts and Monasteries

On the NPR radio program Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett explores ancient manuscripts and the role of monastics in preserving them. Go here to explore the show.

I recently reread Walter M. Miller' A Canticle for Leibowitz, a novel which revolves around monks in the Utah desert who try to preserve knowledge after a nuclear apocalypse catapults the world into a new dark age. I first read the book back in the mid-80's, when I didn't have much knowledge of monasteries.

It's interesting to have that book on the brain as I listen to Speaking of Faith. That book explores the uses of knowledge and the ways that we use knowledge to destroy ourselves and our civilizations. This radio show reminds me of how fragile ancient manuscripts are, and how miraculous it is that any of them have survived.

I also think of all the documents that so many of us are creating on the Internet. I tend to believe that once something is on the Internet, it will never go away. I'm careful about what I post, unlike so many people who post such ill-advised things.

So, I never back up anything that I've posted online. I just assume, for example, that this blog will always be available to me. But what if something happens to Google, and my work vanishes?
The work that we're all doing here in Cloud Computing Land reminds me a bit of the work the monks do in A Canticle for Leibowitz. They compile bits and pieces of knowledge without understanding them, but with the faith that someday, their work will have been important. We, too, are engaged in a giant experiment, and many of us aren't real sure where the experiment will take us--and those who are sure are probably wrong.

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